On the train in the morning, I see lots of people “plugged in”. Wires trailing from their ears to their phone. They are listening. Some flip between tracks, others switch between phone calls and music, many are listening and texting, some even manage to listen and read.
Being plugged in to your music collection on shuffle or a constantly re-tuning radio is a picture of our fast-paced 21st century world. Every day we have a thousand voices randomly coming at us – our family, our friends, colleagues, the TV, adverts, texts, tweets, blogs, the internet, books, films, newspapers, Facebook. And there’s one voice that we can’t switch off or walk away from – ourselves.
Some voices get our attention; many we filter out. But who do you listen to? What voices get your attention? Which ones distract?
This post is yet another voice in your life today! Have I got your attention? Will you keep reading or click on to something else?!
Let me be upfront – why I am wanting you to think about the voices in your life? It’s because they carry power.
Voices reflect a sense of reality
What are all the voices in our lives doing? They are presenting a view of the world, a view of reality.
The advert says that buying this product will make you popular; the doctor writing a prescription says medicine makes you well. Your friend tells you to take a holiday – she’s saying that a change of scene is the answer to your stress. This principle is true of all communication, including what we say to ourselves. For example, you think over a difficult conversation you’ve had with a family member, and you wish you’d not said what you did. The worldview this presents is that you are a moral being, capable of choosing between good and ill, and that you live in a world where there are consequences for your actions.
Voices influence us
The different views of reality behind all the voices influence us – often more than we realise. Some match our own view of how we see things and strengthen it. Some challenge our view directly and we resist. Others woo and entice us to abandon our view – either by presenting the superiority of the other view or the inferiority of our own.
If this sounds a bit theoretical, think for a moment about food shopping. How do you make your choices? You choose what you choose? The marketing people would disagree. To keep your loyalty to a product (message “your view is right”) – they use words like “quality” and “value”. To persuade you to try something (message “this is better than your normal choice”) they use words like “new” and “special”.
We were made to listen
It’s no surprise that voices have such power. This is exactly what God intended. He made us to listen – to listen to Him. We are created beings, we need truth from outside us to understand and live in our world. God gives us that truth and made us to respond to that truth.
And our listening is meant to influence us. Listening is all about acting in light of what is said. We have a choice: to listen and obey God or some other message. In Genesis 3, the serpent presents Eve with an alternative reality in which God is not for their good. He sets up this alternative reality through a “double lie” – the serpent lies and says that God is lying. Eve listens to the serpent, and so she acts according to what he says.
We need to be discerning listeners
Because we are made to be influenced by voices, who we listen to really matters. The voices that we hear every day will either present true reality to us, or a false one. Do we listen to the words of the office bully who says that we don’t matter? Do we listen to the message of the movie that says having an affair is a way of “finding our true selves”? Do we listen to that nagging feeling inside that says we will never be useful in God’s Kingdom? Or the commercial’s message that true happiness is found in material things? What about the sub-text of the glossy prospectus that our children’s future security lies in their education? Or the many other messages besides …
How do we make sure we listen to the truth not a lie? By knowing the truth really well. If you know the real thing you can recognise a counterfeit. God’s voice alone gives us the true reality about ourselves and our world – who He is; who we are; what we are for; who we are for. Repeatedly in the Bible God tells us to listen, to pay attention, to hear the word of the Lord. When Jesus – the Word of God – appears this message is writ large – “This is my beloved Son – listen to Him.”
Sydnie Jordan is a pastoral worker at St George’s Church, Dagenham.